Help me ring my bell
January 24, 2015 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Help pick out the notes used in an automated chime

I'm finishing up a project I started several years ago to make a clock with automated chimes rung by solenoids. When I bought the surplus solenoids some 8 years ago, I apparently had only planned for 12. No problem.

Well, now I'm getting closer to completion. What notes should I pick?
I was intending on wasting 8 on them on a diatonic octave. Assuming that I work from C to shining C, what should I used for the other 4 notes?

At present, I was thinking of B below the lower C, E♭ F♯ and B♭, figuring that would give me leading tones to the tonic and dominant, some minor coverage, etc.

What would you pick, hive mind?
posted by plinth to Media & Arts (4 answers total)
I'd be tempted to make it play "Fly Me To the Moon," which would require G# and C# above, and B below. That would leave you with one note to play with. Add A below and you get "What Child Is This" for the holiday season as well as a-minor (natural) and most of an A-major scale for that matter (although the missing F# would probably be annoying). Westminster chimes would work transposed to G, so you don't need to do anything else to accommodate that, but again the missing F# comes into play if you want them non transposed.

So I'd think in terms of either major and relative minor or tonic and dominant, and figure out what I'd most like my chimes to play from those two options.
posted by fedward at 3:09 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is there a reason why you wouldn't just want all 12 notes in the chromatic scale? That way you can have any melody that fits within an octave regardless of mode.
posted by speicus at 3:14 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Why not chromatic? Well, you'd need 13 for an octave (and having an octave is a good thing), and in a lot of music there is call for a leading tone going into the tonic or dominant as well as, say, the dominant below the root. At least, this was always my experience when my kids were toddlers trying to play music on their toy xylophones.
posted by plinth at 4:56 AM on January 25, 2015

I would use 8 for the octave (and let's assume C5-C6).

Depending on what you want it to play, for the other 4 I would pick F4, G4, A4, and B4. That way you can have some sort of bass line on the IV and V underneath the main.

I direct a bell choir and frequently make these sorts of decisions based on the how many ringers I have available, and which bells actually sound good with each other (some are tuned sharper than others; damned temperance)
posted by frecklefaerie at 8:00 AM on January 25, 2015

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